The Ash and the Beech, By Richard Mabey


First published in 2007 as Beechcombings, this challenging work on "the drama of woodland change" has gained added impetus with the arrival of Chalara, the fungus that threatens the beech.

Mabey is sanguine: "There's a kind of anthropomorphism in our worries, as if trees responded to disease, age, death in the same ways as us. They don't."

This robust view of "entirely natural events" is supported by Mabey's revelation about the limits of our knowledge: "The mystery of how beech… spread to England and dispersed throughout the south remains."